This Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the New York Jets in Week 1 of the regular season. To help preview this week's game, I reached out to Scott Salmon from Gang Green Nation and exchanged five questions with him. Enjoy!
Chris: "Ryan Fitzpatrick is currently the starting quarterback for the Jets due to an unfortunate locker room incident with Geno Smith. How has Fitzpatrick performed in the preseason with the first-stringers, and if fans had the choice, which of the team's three quarterbacks would they like to see start in Week 1 (assuming all were healthy)?"
Scott: "Fitzpatrick has gotten much better with time. He started off very shaky in the preseason opener, but by the third game, looked fairly efficient, even if his arm isn't what it used to be and struggled to throw deep. I think if you put three fans in a room and asked about the quarterbacks, you'd come out of the room with four opinions. There are a decent number of fans, such as myself, who haven't lost faith in Smith. There is a substantial number of people who think Fitzpatrick can be a good enough stop gap until the team can get someone better. And there are a few people who are ready to throw Bryce Petty into the fire already. I would guess it's close to a 45/45 split with Smith and Fitzpatrick, and 9% that want Petty. The other 1% want the team to bring back Vinny Testaverde."
Chris: "When I look at Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker, I see two receivers who are nice big targets for a quarterback, but not necessarily down-field threats. With Devin Smith still nursing broken ribs, do the Jets have a deep threat receiver in their arsenal for Sunday?"
Scott: "I'm not sure I agree, at least as far as Decker is concerned. He has a good enough track record of being a deep threat, at least with Smith. It remains to be seen if Fitzpatrick can actually throw deep, what with his arm resembling a wacky waving inflatable arm-flailing tube man. Obviously, as you said, Smith is their best bet, but I wouldn't count out Decker quite yet."
Chris: "The Jets are very good at stopping the run and have perhaps the best group of cornerbacks in the NFL. Tell us a little bit about the linebacker position, though -- is it an average unit? Is the pass-rush from the likes of Calvin Pace and Quinton Coples expected to make much of a dent?"
Scott: "The linebackers are... okay. They're very good at stuffing the run. Pace can set the edge well and David Harris/Demario Davis can tackle as well as anybody. As far as pass rush and coverage are concerned, those are the two biggest weaknesses on the defense. Pace has been a decent pass rusher, and Coples is boom-or-bust. It's going to be interesting to see if Lorenzo Mauldin can rush the passer as well as he did in the preseason, although he did struggle with closing the deal. To answer your question, they should be able to get some pressure on Josh McCown if, for no other reason, that the defensive line is so good that there should be blown assignments."
Chris: "Buster Skrine joined the Jets this year after starting his career with the Browns. Based on what he did here, I assume that he'll play the nickelback role with the Jets. Is that the case, and how well of a camp/preseason has he had?"
Scott: "That's definitely the case. The coaching staff is smitten with Skrine, saying they could put him anywhere and he's "pound-for-pound" the strongest guy on the team. That said, with Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie ahead of him, he'll be limited to the nickelback role, where he's played as aggressively as he did with the Browns, and with positive results."
Chris: "Which position on the Jets' offensive line would you label as being the closest thing to a "weak link?""
Scott: "That title could likely go to either the right guard, Willie Colon, or the right tackle, Breno Giacomini. Colon is a penalty machine, and Giacomini is average at best. They looked pretty good during the preseason, better than I think most of us expected, but if the Browns want to attack the Jets, it's going to be on the right side of the line."
Thanks again to Scott for taking the time to answer my questions.